Propel Center: Powered by Ed Farm
One-line solution summary:
A catalytic epicenter to provide HBCU students with knowledge, skills, tools & resources necessary to transform our nation's workforce
Pitch your solution.
Propel will offer HBCU students curricula and programs via a connected ecosystem of online, on-site and on-campus accessibility. Our approach includes creating a physical center, ideation labs and an e-learning hub that connects HBCU students across the country to innovative learning and entrepreneurship. This is especially apt in light of the current political climate, where resources and funding for these institutions are evaporating. Research shows that HBCU’s have low organizational trust and support for innovation and need to empower their faculty to support innovation. Propel will be a hub for learning and application. Featuring lectures from world-class thought leaders and a best-in-class business accelerator program, students will emerge from Propel prepared to become leaders who advance our world. Our students will be well equipped to become successful founders and thought leaders -- the patron saints of Black talent.
What specific problem are you solving?
Only 1% of the venture capital-backed founders in the U.S. are African American. The Black tech employees’ percentage in Silicon Valley decreased to 2.3% in 2017. Due to automation, the future of work, the fourth industrial revolution and beyond, Black America stands to lose 4.5 million jobs in the next decade. Today, the median net worth of a Black American family is about $17,000 compared to $171,000 a white American family. It is projected to be zero by 2053 for Black American and Latinx Americans, respectively. The pandemic has accelerated this trajectory. We hope to close the gap, encouraging innovation and collaboration among HBCU students devoted to a legacy of excellence.
What is your solution?
The Propel Center will offer these six program offerings:
- Propel Now: An on-campus high school career development program that introduces students to Swift programming, ML, AR, AI, and advanced technology principles, while also providing in-person career mentorship and in-person or virtual internships for aspiring HBCU students.
- Propel Talent: A program providing students with access to digital learning opportunities, technology, and mentorship with corporate leaders.
- Propel Justice: A program that seeks to develop social justice-minded leaders who are prepared to serve as community organizers, activists and become transformative political influencers.
- Propel Arts: A virtual and in-person entertainment curriculum that will create more innovative artists and executives across film, television, music and sports broadcasting through mentorship, professorship and hands-on experience with industry artists and corporate entertainment entities.
- Propel Impact: A fifth-year fellowship program of select HBCU students committed to solving global and community-based issues. Fellows will engage in a curriculum that develops leadership skills and is delivered by corporate, government and community leaders.
- Propel Startup: A program that seeks to multiply the development of black entrepreneurs. Propel’s accelerator gives them a space to incubate their business and providing them access to venture capitalists to navigate the various stages of business growth.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
The Propel center will primarily serve HBCU students. Black students are attracted to HBCUs, primarily as a testament to the strong community, where Black people are encouraged to succeed, regardless of their background.
To understand the needs of our target population, we have conducted research on the gaps and current standing of different issues on campus. We have interviewed students, professors, and college faculty to deduce what needs are recurring. We have also enlisted the help of recent HBCU graduates, presidents, advocates, and donors to ensure we are solving tangible problems. Additionally, a number of members of the team are graduates of HBCUs, with intimate knowledge of which gaps Propel can and will fill.
Our solution will address their needs by providing programming, capital, and resources that serve underrepresented fields such as entrepreneurship, venture capital, technology, agribusiness, mass media, social justice, and career readiness. This is relevant given that of the overall HBCU student population, 3 out of every 5 students identify as First Generation-Low Income (FGLI). We hope to ensure that all HBCU students have access to opportunities that are more often cultivated at elite Predominately White Institutions (PWIs).
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?Drive resources and support to Black, Indigenous, and Latinx entrepreneurs and innovators
Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Reimagining Pathways to Employment in the US Challenge and your selected dimension.
Propel is designed — and so, its curricula— to prepare HBCU students to emerge from college as leaders who are capable of leading entrepreneurial pursuits and advancing corporate culture, through the lens of social justice. Propel graduates will be equipped with relevant the training and certification to compete in the ever changing workforce. Propel's graduate's skills and technical trainings will allow a cohort of Black leaders to gain experience in "professions of the new economy."
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?Birmingham, AL, USA
In which US state(s) will you be operating within the next year?
What is your solution’s stage of development?Prototype: A venture or organization building and testing its product, service, or business model
Who is the team lead for your solution?
Waymond Jackson, CEO of Ed Farm
How many people work on your solution team?
Full-Time Staff: 3
Part-Time Staff: 5
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: What is your approach to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization?
Ed Farm as an organization values work that promotes diversity, cultural understanding, and global awareness by using digital-age communication and collaboration tools to interact locally and globally with students, peers, parents, and the larger community. We are a team of individuals who are passionate about education. We believe that diversity of culture, backgrounds, opinions and abilities is vital to our work, and our team welcomes anyone willing to build community through collaboration. Ed Farm works to eliminate all forms of disparity and discrimination including those based upon an individual's ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, belief, religion, faith, culture, level of physical ability, or socio-economic background. Diversity and inclusion are vital to our work of bringing accessibility and equity to education, entrepreneurial, and tech workspaces everywhere.
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?A new business model or process
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
To thrive in our ever-changing world, HBCUs need to compete. One of the best ways for HBCUs to compete is through collaboration. The Propel Center will offer a centralized nexus for collaboration to HBCUs across the country.
The work we’ve already begun makes Ed Farm an ideal partner for the challenges it seeks to address in Atlanta. Our partners provide access to every HBCU in America, and our community network includes Black executives and nonprofits throughout the country who are committed to community impact.
The Propel Center is like nothing ever created for HBCUs. Taking cues from Apple, our entire ecosystem of resources will feature the power of SWIFT-centric technology, existing Apple HBCU Scholars, and intentionality around placing Apple’s technology in the hands of pioneering leaders who are committed to solving the world’s problems.
To Ed Farm, the value proposition of the Propel Center is clear. It will establish an educational cooperative that will become a global beacon for excellence in redefining what is possible when investments are made in HBCU talent.
Describe the core technology, if applicable, that powers your solution.
As a legacy of their creation, HBCUs are a safe place for students of color to learn and self-actualize free from society’s, often negative, perceptions of what it means to be black. The Propel Center Platform serves to bring that distinct HBCU freedom into an online space.
To enhance the richness of The Propel Center’s program the Platform will be:
An online community of HBCU students, removing physical boundaries between HBCU students in order to spark connections and celebration one another
A centralized host for Propel Center resources - interviews, podcasts, news, books
A job/internship board
A student’s key to Propel Center programming
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
What is your theory of change?
The Propel Center is a virtual and physical campus for HBCU idea exchange, education, and leadership development. In order to meet this ideal, the center will house an accelerator, an incubator, and ideation labs that supports Black leaders.
With its mission to use technology to transform classrooms, Ed Farm sees HBCUs as the next frontier. Our solutions seek to multiply the development
of black entrepreneurs and leaders, galvanize the collective thought leadership and traditions of all 101 HBCUs and extend HBCUs’ legacy of innovation for another 100 years.
History has demonstrated how HBCUs drive transformative change and elevate the way its students see and experience the world. However, recent challenges have put that tradition in peril; lack of resources and dwindling enrollment have stymied opportunities for innovation and pushed many HBCUs into survival mode. Ed Farm wants to change this. Our solution: the Propel Center.
The Propel Center will offer a centralized nexus for collaboration to HBCUs across the country. Through Propel’s program offerings HBCU students from across America will be provided access to virtual training and resources, world-class curricula, and global experiences aimed at creating well-rounded and community-minded leaders.
Select the key characteristics of your target population.
What percent of the people you served in 2019 were between the age of 15 and 30?
What type of organization is your solution team?Other, including part of a larger organization (please explain below)
If you selected Other, please explain here.
Ed Farm, a nonprofit organization with a focus on education and innovation, has a history of addressing education equity and outcomes in Birmingham, AL. The Propel Center is the organization’s flagship space and entity in Atlanta, GA.
How many people are on your leadership team? (Of these, please provide the number of individuals from your leadership team that are full time, part time, and volunteer)
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
Apple is the world’s largest technology company. Their pursuits have helped redefine and advance the way we use technology to engage with the world. Apple’s capabilities:
- Sustainability funding partner
- Vision and planning partner
- Curriculum content partner
- Provider of technology and equipment
- Provider of access to internships, careers and mentoring
Southern Company is the second largest gas and electric utility holding company in the U.S. They have recently announced a $50M commitment to strengthening HBCUs across their service footprint. Southern Company’s capabilities:
- Sustainability funding partner
- Provider of energy-specific curriculum content
- Provider of access to internship, careers and mentoring
For more than 50 years, INROADS has provided leadership and career development for the talented and underrepresented. This work has allowed them to amass a network that gives them access to all 106 HBCUs and develop a track record for producing insightful research and sustainable programs. INROADS’ capabilities:
- Developer of curricula and programs
- Developer of leadership and career pipelines
- Conduit for assembling HBCU thought leadership
CAU is committed to providing land for the development of Propel. Additionally, via a special arrangement their staff will collaborate with Ed Farm to assume day-to-day operations.
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
Why are you applying to the Reimagining Pathways to Employment in the US Challenge?
Propel is focused on developing leaders who possess the instincts and tools for entrepreneurship, as well as the talent and skills necessary for corporate success. Propel’s partnerships with Apple, Southern Company, INROADS and others creates an ecosystem of companies across various industries who stand ready to provide internships and career opportunities to our students. Industry influencers will also help inform Propel’s curriculum content. Innovation Arts, Entertainment, Energy, Technology, Social Justice and Finance are just some of the pillars that our curriculum will align with.
- Kendall Easley Policy Analyst